Claire's blog

New court case to challenge government on climate targets

As a member of the Paris climate agreement, the UK has signed up to play its part in the overall aim: "Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change."

The UK's emissions targets under the Climate Change Act are to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 compared to 1990 levels. Emissions budgets for five year periods are determined by the Committee on Climate Change. It's extremely concerning that according the Committee we are well off track to meet the cuts we need to make by 2030, let alone 2050.

But the organisation Plan B have been asking a different question - are the targets themselves sufficient to meet the aims of the Paris climate agreement?

Budget bad news for renewables as Treasury stalls subsidies

Unheralded by Philip Hammond in his speech, this year's Budget contained an alarming announcement for renewable energy: there will be “no new low carbon electricity levies until 2025”. 

Commitments made in the government ’s Clean Growth Strategy will not be affected: existing Contracts for Difference (including Hinkley Point C) and existing commitments under regulatory schemes such as the Renewables Obligation and Feed-in Tariffs, and up to £557 million (in 2011-12 prices) for additional Contracts for Difference (most of the latter to be spent on offshore wind).

Clean Growth Strategy - the good, the bad and the missed targets

The Clean Growth Strategy, long overdue, is finally here.

There are some positive steps forwards. Home insulation had all but ground to a halt with the removal of schemes to support it - the promise of £3.6 billion investment to upgrade around a million homes is welcome. Another £1 billion is promised for electric cars and £1.2 for cycling and walking.

£900 million is promised for research and development, with £460 million of this going to nuclear, £265 million on electricity storage and grid technologies and £177 million to renewable technologies. The Hinkley Point cost fiasco has clearly not blunted appetites for nuclear energy.

Offshore wind is given a boost, with plans for up to 10GW of offshore wind to be built in the 2020s. Yet onshore wind still appears to be off the menu (except in Scottish islands).  It is extraordinary that the cheapest form of renewable energy is still blocked from competing on a level playing field, despite being relatively popular with the public.

There are also no clear measures to boost solar, another cheap renewable technology, despite deployment having plummetted after government cuts. The Solar Trade Association expressed disappointment that the tax and regulatory framework was still not giving them a level playing field.

Among the omissions, it is noticeable that there is no mention of fracking - is the government cooling off its enthusiasm for shale gas?

Another issue, as we expected, almost entirely absent, is the thorny question of growing aviation emissions. How can keeping within our carbon budgets be compatible with a new runway at Heathrow? (spoiler - it can't)

There are many more policies trailed in the strategy, some detailed, some less clear at this stage.

But perhaps the most important thing to note about the strategy is that it is not expected to be sufficient to reduce our emissions enough to stay within the UK's carbon budgets from 2023. As the table below shows, the gap widens further from 2028 onwards. This failure would make it much harder to achieve longer term targets from the 2030s onwards.

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